Why Do We Pray to the Saints?
A friend quotes 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” Her church honours the saints only as exemplars of the Christian life but never as mediators between us and God, as she claims we do. I know Christ is our only way to God, but where do the prayers of the saints come in here? Charlene Shaw
Whatever many outside the Catholic Church believe about us, we have never substituted the mediation of the saints with the unique mediation of Christ.
Catholics are familiar with Our Lord’s words to Thomas: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father other than through me” (Jn 14:6).
All prayer to God is heard only in the name of Jesus Christ. Indeed, don’t so many of our liturgical prayers conclude with: “We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord”?
So, when we pray for one another or for any favour, we are heard by the Father because our faith in Christ is the only way to him.
Pagans, religious people of all faiths or philosophers who sincerely turn to God as they accept him to be, are in practice praying in the name of Christ, whether they know it or not. To think otherwise would be to deny what Jesus told Thomas.
We all pray for one another out of love, concern or compassion. Our prayers are Christian prayers, trusting in our mysterious but total communion together with Christ.
A Communion of Christians – Living and Dead
Deceased Christians are not separated from this communion. St Paul wrote: “Neither death nor life, nor angelic nor demonic rulers, not present nor future events, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 8:38).
The saints who have their place now in heaven can pray for you to God, just as your priest and parishioners pray for you.
We must not think that the saints’ prayers go behind Christ’s back. Their prayers, as explained, are made within the communion of all the baptised in Christ’s name. We and they are comprehensively the Mystical Body of Christ, which St Paul illustrates graphically in 1 Corinthians 12. Collectively and individually we are one Body, “Jews, Greeks, slaves, free; and all of us were given the same Spirit to drink”.
You ask where the prayers of the saints come in here. Well, our centuries-old liturgy assures us that after death, our life is “changed, not ended”.
The saints are now alive with the risen Christ, and “through him, and with him and in him” they pray for us just as we pray for one another today.